WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: A man (Nikita‘s Aaron Stanford) is sent from the post-apocalyptic future to stop a deadly virus from destroying all human life. Along the way, he enlists the help of a current-day scientist (Suits‘ Amanda Schull).
WHY WE LIKE IT: Although it’s inspired by the 1995 film of the same name, the Syfy adaptation stands on its own with an intricate, well-established mythology, plenty of creepy mystery and a compelling partnership between Standford and Schull’s characters.
PREMIERE DATE: March (Netflix)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Created by Damages vets Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler, the series is set in the Florida Keys and centers on a close-knit family of four adult siblings (played by Kyle Chandler, Norbert Leo Butz, Ben Mendelsohn and Linda Cardellini) whose secrets and scars are revealed when their black-sheep brother (Mendelsohn) returns home. Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek co-star as the quartet’s parents.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Bloodline uses Damages‘ signature flash-forward device to great effect here, setting up a mystery that is as compelling as the dysfunctional family at the center of it. And the cast, led by Chandler in his first post-Friday Night Lights TV gig, is aces. We’re hooked.
PREMIERE DATE : Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 9/8c (Fox)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: A family, led by a music mogul (Hustle & Flow‘s Terrence Howard) and his fresh-out-of-prison ex-wife (Person of Interest‘s Taraji P. Henson), vie for control of a hip-hop empire.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The drama comes from serious-minded filmmakers Lee Daniels (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Danny Strong (Game Change), but make no mistake, Empire is a good, old fashioned primetime soap – and it’s a juicy one, to boot. Henson’s maternal yet manipulative Cookie is a treat to watch as she aims to take back what’s rightfully hers.
PREMIERE DATE: Monday, Jan. 12 at 10/9c (MTV)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: A young New Yorker named Lindy (Victorious‘ Victoria Justice) engages in a series of online dates with the goal of catching a dangerous predator.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The MTV thriller doesn’t reinvent the crazy psycho/stalker wheel, but it does — kind of appropriately, given its genre — have an addictive quality that already has us theorizing about the baddie’s identity. (Plus, the show should really be titled Man Candy.)
FRESH OFF THE BOAT
PREMIERE DATE: Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 8:30/7:30c and 9:30 pm; regular time slot debut Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 8 pm (ABC)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Inspired by a true story and set in 1995, the comedy follows 11-year-old hip-hop enthusiast Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang) as he and his family adjust to their move to vanilla Orlando, Fla.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Attacking cultural stereotypes head-on with sharp wit, the Huang clan actually delivers on laughs as they attempt to chase the American dream in the ‘burbs. The entire cast is terrific, from the three young kids to the hilarious, 27-year-old (!) Constance Wu as the brood’s tiger mom (before that was an actual thing). She would make Beverly Goldberg proud.
PREMIERE DATE: Sunday, Jan. 4 at 8/7c (two half-hour episodes per week) (ABC)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: A cocky knight (Rogue’s Joshua Sasse) teams with a plucky princess and sassy squire to rescue his one true love from a ruthless-but-clueless king (Psych’s Timothy Omundson) — and much of the tale is told in song.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Until Once Upon a Time resumes Season 4, we need our weekly dose of costumed, family friendly-ish fantasy, which Galavant delivers — and then some. Come for the Princess Bride-y tale as old as time, stay for the clever, Robin Hood: Men in Tights-like lyrics.
PREMIERE DATE: Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 10/9c (VH1)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: On the eve of her second wedding, emotionally conflicted Becca (played by Laura Ramsey) travels back in time to the morning of her first nuptials (to Legend of the Seeker‘s Craig Horner), which ended in divorce, and is reunited with her estranged best friend Lolly (Sarah Goldberg).
WHY WE LIKE IT: Because it’s filling the Being Erica-sized hole in our hearts with its likable, time-traveling yet grounded heroine and her even more likable bestie. Add in a promising love triangle and ’90s references galore – baby doll dresses! Ace of Base! beepers! – and you’ve got one seriously charming “Where do you come from?!” show.
PREMIERE DATE: TBA (The CW)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Aspiring surgeon Liv (Once Upon a Time‘s Rose McIver) becomes a member of the undead, forcing her to take a job at the coroner’s office in order to feed. But with each brain she eats, she inherits the corpse’s memories. (Handy for solving murders!)
WHY WE LIKE IT: Far less gory than The Walking Dead and with the trademark verbal panache of exec producer Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars, iZombie is perfect for those who like their horror more along the lines of Buffy. And the endearing McIver somehow manages to make a “Are you kidding me?” problem – Liv has So. Much. Ennui. – into a meaningful plight.
MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER
PREMIERE DATE : Tuesday, Jan. 6 at 8/7c (with two episodes), then airs Tuesdays at 9 (ABC)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Hayley Atwell reprises her Marvel Cinematic Universe role as the titular Peggy Carter, who in the year 1946 must juggle her administrative duties for the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) with secret missions on behalf of Howard Stark (Captain America’s Dominic Cooper).
WHY WE LIKE IT: Because Peggy will not let The Man keep her down, upending societal conventions of the era every step of the way as she pulls off stealthy sleuthing, beats down bad guys and empowers her gal pals. Plus, besides Atwell and Cooper, the cast features the geek cred of Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse) and Lyndsy Fonseca (Nikita), while Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) was made to wear ’40s fashions.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
PREMIERE DATE: March (Netflix)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Created by 30 Rock duo Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the fish-out-of-water comedy centers on a woman (played by The Office‘s Ellie Kemper) who escapes from a doomsday cult and attempts to start life over in New York. She quickly finds a new job (working for 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski) and a new roommate (30 Rock‘s Tituss Burgess).
WHY WE LIKE IT: It possesses 30 Rock‘s comic sensibility and rhythms, as well as its most underrated asset: Krakowski (who’s playing a Real Housewives version of Jenna Maroney). It also boasts a revelatory performance by Kemper, who infuses her tricky title character with an infectious blend of heart, humor and sass.